In 1994, when Arizona started its shall issue concealed carry weapon (CCW) program, there was considerable interest in how many and what types of homicides would result from the new law. I started teaching classes for the Arizona CCW permit when it went into effect and I immediately noticed that my students were well above average in attitude, responsibility, and civility. They always pitched in to assist in setting up where necessary, and their personal checks have always been good. When the first crime statistics became available, I eagerly digested the information. One person with a CCW permit had committed a homicide, although not with a concealed weapon. It was a domestic situation and the perpetrator was a retired police officer. The question arose, how often do police officers commit homicides compared to concealed carry permit holders? Of the two, which is more common? . . .
The dedicated civilian disarmers at the Violence Policy Center (VPC) love to portray concealed carriers as the source of all violent crime. But it my or may not surprise you to find out that a person is three times safer with a concealed carry permit holder than they are with a police officer.
Attempting to determine how the homicide rate of people with CCW permits compares to that of police officers isn’t an easy task. There are plenty of sources that show that people with CCW permits are far more law abiding than the general population. One would like to believe that the same is true for police officers, but data is much harder to obtain for them. Agencies that employ sworn officers don’t like to tarnish their own names with the misdeeds of other officers, and while a few states that track crimes committed by CCW permit holders, I don’t know of any government database of crimes committed by peace officers.
The crime with the best reporting data is homicides. It’s always a significant event that is difficult to ignore since there’s is usually a body. And the media usually report all the homicides they learn of.
I found two sources of data that seem roughly comparable: The VPC attempts to track all homicides committed by CCW permit holders. The data is incomplete insofar as it relies on publicly reported stories, but it gives us a useful figure. It doesn’t seem likely that too many reported stories are missed.
For police-involved homicides, I used a web site that tracks domestic homicides committed by police officers, and another that does the same for police-involved domestic violence. The stats are comparable to the VPC data in that they rely on publicly reported stories. Data was available for complete years from 2008 – 2011 for a comparison of the two groups.
Florida was chosen to represent CCW permit holders because accurate numbers of permits were obtainable from the Florida Department of Agriculture. Florida has the highest total of CCW permits of all the states and the number of resident concealed carry permits in Florida is reasonably close to the number of sworn state and local peace officers in the U.S.
The VPC says that Florida tops the nation in killings by people with concealed carry permits. They claim 27 total killings that are unjustified homicides by CCW permit holders between 2008 and 2011 and 14 of those were domestic homicides. That makes the rate of domestic homicides per 100,000 per year .583 for CCW holders.
The homicide rate nationally dropped from 5.4 to 4.7 per 100,000 during that period. The Florida homicide rate dropped from 6.4 to 5.2 per 100,000 during the same time. Since we’re only looking at Sunshine State CCW holders, we’d expect those rates to be a bit higher than the national rate for this period.
When we look at the numbers for sworn officers, I found 52 domestic homicides committed by sworn police officers from 2008 – 2011. Nationally for the same period the police rate is 52/2,818,924 or 1.854/100,000 domestic homicides per 100,000 police per year.
So for the data that we have, police appear to be three times as likely to commit murder as a concealed carry permit holder.
If we include all unjustified homicides (excluding suicides) found in Florida by the VPC for CCW holders for all four years, the rate is only 27/2,400,713 or 1.125 per 100,000 population per year. That’s comparable to the homicide rates in developed western European countries. It’s only 61% of the rate for police officers for domestic homicides alone.
There are no complete and definitive sources of data that will give us an accurate ratio of unjustified homicides committed by police officers compared to CCW holders. The numbers are very small and no one appears to keep track of them nationally. However, the numbers found for domestic homicide cases, which are some of the most easily solved and most highly publicized, offer strong evidence that CCW permit holders are far less likely to commit unjustified homicides than are police officers – as little as one third as much.
©2013 by Dean Weingarten of the Gun Watch blog: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.